Wednesday, October 3, 2007

MGH Researchers Push to Reduce Pain

This Boston Globe piece is worth reading, even if only for the wonderful historical parallels: anesthesia was invented at Mass General Hospital in 1846, and more than 150 years later, researchers there are still working to make it better.

From Colin Nickerson's story:

    Scientists at Harvard Medical School and Massachusetts General Hospital today described a new "targeted" approach to anesthesia that appears to totally block pain neurons, but doesn't cause the numbness or partial paralysis that is the unwelcome side-effect of anesthesia used for surgery performed on conscious patients.

    If approved for use in humans, the method could dramatically ease the trial of giving birth -- by sparing women pain while allowing them to physically participate in labor. It could also diminish the trauma of knee surgery, for instance, or the discomfort of getting one's molars drilled. Not only would there be no "ouch," there would be none of the sickening wooziness or loss of motor control that comes from standard forms of "local" anesthesia.

Interesting tidbit: their approach relied in part on capsaicin, the ingredient that makes chili peppers hot.

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Sunday, July 29, 2007

Looking Good is Getting More Expensive

Today's Globe column focuses on aesthetic medicine, and some of the companies developing drugs and devices to help us look better. From the piece:

    A cluster of New England companies is developing drugs and medical devices that will reduce wrinkles and cellulite, grow hair where you want it and remove it where you don't, and help you manage your impulse to overeat.

    And while keeping you young and slim may not be as socially redeeming as, say, devising a vaccine for the next flu pandemic, millions of dollars in venture capital funding are flowing into the sector dubbed "aesthetic medicine," puffing up local start-ups like a shot of collagen injected into a pair of lips.

    In 2005, the US market for aesthetic devices and therapies was $2 billion, according to Windhover Information -- a number that is expected to grow to $4.2 billion by 2010.

Leerink Swann & Co., a Boston investment bank, put out this report (PDF document) earlier in July. It's titled "Anti-Aging Breakthroughs: Future of the Aesthetics Market." It mentions a few companies with Massachusetts links that aren't in my column, including UltraShape (based in Israel but funded by Polaris Ventures) and Juniper Medical (built on science from the MassGeneral lab of Rox Anderson and funded by Advanced Technology Ventures, but headquartered in California.) Thanks to Leerink vice chair Dan Dubin for sharing it.

Here's the video from my conversation with Daphne Zohar, founder of PureTech ventures and interim CEO of Follica, a company that aims to develop a drug/device combination that will stimulate new hair follicle growth. We talk about the aesthetics market in general, some of the marketing and reimbursement issues, and the cultural divide between aesthetic medicine companies and more "serious" biotech and device companies.

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